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2020 SAS summer courses will take place remotely. For undergraduates, please check Penn InTouch for updated summer course information. For graduate and professional students, please consult your schools and programs. Summer study abroad remains cancelled.

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Freaks, Creeps and Cheats

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Course Number: 
GSWS 125 920


Course Description: 

In this course we will analyze representations of erotic transgression—including adulterous, violent, and "perverted" or non-normative sex and sexualities—in literature, film, literary theory, and on occasion music and the plastic arts. We will study how sex and sexual desire is represented, and think critically about the narrative conventions used for describing taboo desires, behaviors, and identities as well as the social values that inform them. The themes of desire, transgression, suspicion, and discovery lie at the heart of many classic narratives in drama, literature, and film, from antiquity to the present. Is there anything special, we will ask, about representing sex, especially "wrong" kinds of sex? What might these narratives and formal structures teach us about the way we read, think, and act in general? By supplementing classic literary accounts by authors such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, von Sacher-Masoch (of “masochism” fame), and de Sade (of “sadism” fame), with films by such figures as Peter Greenaway and Pier Paolo Pasolini, we will analyze the possibilities and limitations of the different genres and forms under discussion. What can these forms show us (or not show us) about desire, gender, family, and social obligation? We will apply a range of critical approaches to address such crucial questions as well as to place narratives of "bad," "kinky," or "sinful" sexuality in their social and literary context.

Programs for every

type of student


Study online,

all summer long


Summer is the best season

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Penn Summer

3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

(215) 898-7326

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